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Isn't the fact that vegans must take a vitamin B12 supplement to remain healthy evidence that veganism is not a natural or totally nutritional diet?
VegFamily readers reply:
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B-12 can be obtained by drinking water from sources where there is a trace of animal waste - such as the water sources for our ancestors and parts of the world where there is a lack of clean water. In most 1st world countries, today's water is cleaned of these impurities. This is a tradeoff between sanitation and the ability to ingest some of our essential nutrients from a natural source.
Having grown up in a family of heavy meat and dairy eaters, I've seen first hand just how unhealthy those particular dietary choices have made us all. Clogged colons, spotty skin, low energy and plenty of health problems that can easily be contributed to the consumption of animal products. They all think I'm nuts for not continuing to eat like them, but my body is healthier and I look much younger and feel better for the change. This claim that a B12 supplement is necessary in order for vegans to be healthy is simply somebody repeating something they read or heard from someone else, rather than actual knowledge based on education in dietetics or personal experience. Our soil is depleted of minerals and the majority of produce we have available to us does not have the vitamin and mineral content that it should, and a good vitamin and mineral supplement is necessary for all, regardless of their chosen diet.
I have been vegan for a little over a year and have yet to take a vitamin supplement and I never will. Just today in my juice there was 100% of my daily value of B12, there was also B12 in my cereal I had this morning with almond milk and for lunch there was B12 in my meat substitute. That is just to name a few.
It seems to me that eating a vegan diet when supplemented with Vitamin B-12 is a very healthful way to live. The word "Natural" is used in the original question and it is this word I feel most compelled to address. At this point and time in history I would say that it makes more sense to eat a healthful diet of whole foods (beans, fruits, seeds, veggies, nuts) and supplement with a very small amount of B-12. REAL FOODS.This seems most NATURAL to me. The diet that so many Americans "think" is healthy is causing increased disease not to mention a rise in obesity. One could say that eating an omnivorous diet with "free range" animal flesh is healthy , but I beg to differ. For starters maybe you would be getting B-12 , but at what cost? For an omnivore to get her/his B-12 a living being must suffer as if in a concentration camp (denied the love of their children, confined (sometimes the Free range isn't so FREE!) , raped (artificially inseminated in a rape rack) and then murdered. These methods are all organic and can be stamped FREE RANGE. The only thing that is often organic is the feed that they eat. This isn't the romantic picture most people picture.Sounds intense, huh? It wasn't too long ago that a person could get all their needed B12 from eating a healthy vegan diet without supplementation. Why? The earth's top soil contained it. Unfortunately, the earth's topsoil is eroding and over farming and mono-cropping isn't helping. Cow's who are actually able to freely graze on public lands get THEIR B12 from the soil and people who unfortunately eat them get it because it is stored in their flesh. Also, many processed foods are fortified with B12. If the animals have never been outside to experience daylight in the first place, graze on real soil, etc.... you can bet B-12 is supplemented into THEIR feed, then you are getting a B12 supplement through a filtered source. And my counter question is how healthy is that? It seems like a lot of suffering ( for both animals, people and the earth) for such a small quantity of B12. I would say it seems more natural to eat of the plants and foods of the earth and pass up the rotting animal flesh.
There is so much we do now that isn't totally natural...we live in houses, use artificial light, watch television, use computers, wear clothes, fly in airplanes, drive cars...all these things are not totally natural, either. My husband and I feel that being vegan, while it may not be totally natural (most of our ape cousins eat insects and small amounts of animal protein), has so many benefits to our health, our planet, and our fellow creatures that share our planet...that being vegan is well worth it. We take vegan B-12 (we don't eat insects) and we don't worry about it. I've been vegan 7 years...last year my MD wanted to test my B-12...it was normal.
Emily and Jenny:
Yes, veganism is a diet that requires particular attention and minimal supplements. However, I know that I get a much wider range and bulk of nutrients (and flavors and cuisines and vegetables etc) in general than my omnivore peers who don't think so carefully about what they eat. And I don't think the fact that I have to take a B12 vitamin outweighs all the environmental, cultural and ethical benefits of being vegan. There are certainly unhealthy vegans, but they are a small minority in the vegan community compared to the expanse of unhealthy omnivore Americans. Yay vegans!
To my knowledge, B12 was abundant in drinking water and food before our civilization sanitized them (for better or worse). When we drank rainwater or ate food we were able to get enough B12. Nowadays that doesn't happen. I think the reason cows and other animals have B12 in them is because they still eat and drink from the ground. I don't think they synthesize it inside their bodies. So the only reason a meat-eater is getting B12 is because the animal they're eating drank water or ate food that had it.
From what I've read on this subject thus far, the need to take a supplement for B-12 has been caused largely by the lack of quality top soil in farming these days. To quote from The Gluten-Free Vegan "B-12 is often scarce in over-sanitised western diets and decimated topsoil. It?s important to realise that B-12 is NOT a vegan issue - at least 40% of Americans on a standard diet are B-12 deficient... B-12 is produced by bacteria on foods (note: bacteria are not part of the animal kingdom - like plants they are not animals and do not have the capacity to suffer or conscious self-awareness), but there aren?t too many reliable vegan food sources around - but wait! There?s a good reason for this. Herbivorous animals in a ?natural? environment ingest plenty of B-12 - many species consume the nutrient in their diet, while ruminants such as cows and sheep have extra stomachs where bacteria produce B-12 internally (provided the animals consume cobalt). Apes consume up to 5% animal products, while gorillas consume up to 1% as insect contamination of their natural diet of leaves and fruit. Our great ape cousins, gorillas and chimps, do not spray their foods with synthetic or organic pesticides, nor do they wash their food or chemically sanitise and filter their water. In the wild great apes get plenty of B-12, but when they are held in captivity they also require B-12 supplements as they consume sanitised human foods, and, like the great apes, humans do not get enough vitamin B-12 from their sanitised plants and water. This doesn?t mean a vegan diet is ?unnatural? - it merely demonstrates that humans can transform many aspects of their world, and sometimes the consequences can be damaging to our health and/or the environment. Fortunately humans have also found ways to get B-12 directly from bacteria - the source of all B-12 - and make it available in a convenient, clean, cruelty-free forms through fortified foods and supplements."
Olin Idol, N.D., C.N.C.:
Interestingly, when a group of vegans were tested at Hallelujah Acres a few years ago, we found 47% were deficient in B-12 while 53% were not. What we found is that when we eat as per God's plan in Genesis 1:29 and have a good healthy balance of friendly flora, we make all of the B-12 we need in the gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, most people no longer have access to fresh raw foods with the beneficial bacteria as our ancestors did and our preior diets and lifestyles have compromised our friendly bacteria. With a significant imbalance in intestinal bacteria, we are unable to produce the B-12 the body needs and thus may need to resort to restoring the friendly bacteriz by way of Probiotic supplementation or we may need to supplement with a good sublingual B-12 (methylcobalamin form). It is important to note that blood test for B-12 levels may not be accurate. The most accurate way of accessing B-12 status is by way of methylmalonic acid (MMA)screening of the urine. The real issue is not with the fundamental principles of a plant based diet as based upon Genesis 1:29 but rather the negative impact of commercial raised foods, environmental conditons, and lifestyles that impair intestinal homeostasis.
Deborah Pageau B.SC.:
No. That belief comes from a lack of understanding of our digestive biology. We are primates biologically, and in nature, primates generally eat most a plant diet. They do however, have their own way of consuming the necessary B12. It's called "coprophagy". Take a deep breath before you read on... it's gross! They eat their own freshly produced excrement. Sometimes, very young human children instinctively do it too. The reason it is a source of B12 for plant eaters is that B12 is produced in our large intestine just before solid waste is expelled from the body. It cannot be absorbed in the large intestine though, it has to be consumed and absorbed in the small intestine. So, for animals in a natural environment, this is an effective system. While I appreciate the efficiency of this natural method, I'm grateful we can get the B12 we need from a little pink tablet instead! :-)
One of the reasons we vegans need supplementation for B12 is that over the centuries our bodies do not make any from the small amounts of dirt, yeasts and moulds that used to be ingested with our home grown food. Another reason is the high heat processing of even food labelled "whole food". And then many of us take a small dose B12 supplement as a precautionary measure, but in fact most of us would be fine without it. The human gut and teeth are designed to cope with vegetable foods, not animal protein. There is ample evidence that a vegan diet maintains optimal health, reverses and cures coronary disease and diabetes, and lowers obesity and blood cholesterol. Hope this is helpful.
Vitamin B12 is actually manufactured in the gut. The problem of deficiency stems from several factors. First of all, the natural bacteria in the gut has been altered in most people by all the chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics we consume. We consume chemicals in over 3300 additives in packaged foods, in artifical flavors, colors, and sweeteners, and in drugs that we take. You get hormones in your meat and dairy foods because the animal factory farming practices want the animals to grow very fast and give lots of milk. The factory farms also give the animals antibiotics almost continually. If you eat animal products, you get antibiotics. And, if you get sick, your doctor will frequently give you antibiotic prescriptions. Many people are animal eater converts, so their gut bacteria has been altered.
Second, vitamin B12 is actually manufactured out of dirt-like substances. When you eat pristine looking fruits and vegatables, they have been washed several times, even with soaps. They may also be covered with wax to make them shiny and look good. But, if you grow your own vegetables, you will have some that are not perfectly shaped and you will likely consume some soil-like substances that you just could not get off. In fact, I consume lots of vegtetables directly from the garden as I work in the garden. For instance, I will pick a tomato and wipe it off or if it looks clean I will go ahead and eat it. Corn is excellent directly from the garden and without cooking.
The proof is in the pudding. I have been vegan for about 4.5 years now. I don't take B-12 because I think it will be unnecessary. I will get a blood test and see if I am right.
Vegans in olden times were healthy into old age. Why would we be any different if we eat plenty of organic plant foods directly from the garden!
The way people ask these questions, I wonder if they really are interested in answers or not. The question here seems to already have an answer. As for as deficiencies in B12, it is debatable whether vegans need to supplement or not so most ere on the safe side and do. B12 though is not an animal product, it is bacterial that used to be found in the ground until conventional farming killed most of it in the 60s/70s. There are some recent studies that show most B12 deficiencies are actually in omnivores, and not in vegan populations. As far as whether it is natural or not, I guess it depends on what you consider natural. Factory farming is far from natural. If you really want to be natural, go back to foraging for your own food, and see what that does to your health.
Not at all. Before the intensive farming practices that we now use began, our vegetables used to be covered in bacteria that biosynthesized vitamin B12. Even washing the veggies wouldn't remove all of the bacteria & B12, so we would end up ingesting it. Nowadays, people think that the only source of B12 is animal products. Why? Because food grown for humans is sterilized, whereas food grown for "food" animals is not. Those animals ingest the B12, and when humans eat those animals, they ingest some of the B12 as well. If we would leave a little healthy dirt on our veggies (and leave the animals alone!) we'd get plenty of B12, *especially* because we're vegans, since vegans tend to eat more fresh vegetables than omnivores, and we wouldn't be getting it from a secondhand source.
Funny, I just got an email newsletter from Dr. Mercola's site. I don't agree with everything he says but he does give some good statistics. He said that in a study 81% of urban men are deficient in vitamin b12. Hmmm.... 81% of urban men are not vegans! Most of them consume way too much meat. Therefore that shos that it is not meat that provides the vitamin.
It may seem that a vegan diet is not natural if you have to take a B12 supplement, until you understand why. B12 is actually produced by micro-organisms and bacteria. When micro-organisms were plentiful in the natural soil B12 was available in plant foods as the plants would take it up from the soil, not only this but our natural intestinal flora produces B12 in sufficient amounts as well. So, in a natural world we would obtain more than enough B12.
However, Micro-organisms in the soil have been destroyed by chemical pesticides, insecticides and other industrial farming practices and our food no longer contains any B12 at all.
Our intestinal flora is destroyed not only by antibiotic use but through drinking chlorinated water, antibacterial body soaps, consumption of pesticides in our food etc... Due to the severe disruption of our natural intestinal flora this beneficial bacteria 'may' not be able to produce enough B12 for our needs, hence the need for a B12 supplement.
Our need for B12 supplement is entirely due to the unnatural way in which we live our lives. It is possible that our bodies could make enough,but there is no way to know for sure, we take probiotics but these only contain about 15 strains of bacteria, where our intestinal tract naturally contains about 400. So if you have ever taken antibiotics at any time even with probiotics your body may not be able to make enough. This is why it is recommended that vegans take B12, it is just to ensure adequate B12 because in our unnatural enviornment there is no way to know if our intestinal flora will be able to make enough and due to pesticides and chemicals in our food and water we can no longer obtain it in a natural diet.
Arnold E. Carr:
Veganism is not a natural diet for humans, if by "natural" one means that we are adapted to eat only food that comes from outside the Animal Kingdom. Humans are omnivores capable of thriving on a wide variety of foods. It seems likely to me that our ancestors benefitted from the higher protein and fat content of meat that enabled them to survive times when other food sources were scarce.
There are many things humans do that are not natural in this sense: dieting, living in houses, monogamy and riding bicycles among them. If we were content with the state of nature, we would still have a life expectancy of 30 to 40 years and there would be little of what passes for civilization.
My own attraction to veganism (I still eat eggs if they are humanely and responsibly obtained) is due to my increasing unwillingess to survive at the expense of violence to any sentient being. If a vitamin B12 tablet every day is the only concession to the unnatural one has to make, I consider it an ethical no-brainer.
Am I the worst vegan in the world? I, nor my husband take a vitamin B12 supplement. Though, I refuse to believe that a person who eats traditional American junk food and fast-food on a regular basis gets every vitamin they are supposed to in the correct amounts anyway... I feel like I probably get a MUCH more varied and certainly healthier diet even without this particular vitamin. I have friends in my life that avoid all fruits and vegetables whenever possible, isn't this worse?